Lin­ger­ing stale­mate a downer

In phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal terms, fur­lough touches many

Albany Times Union (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Rick Kar­lin and Eric An­der­son

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment shut­down has cut a swath through the na­tion and into the Cap­i­tal Re­gion’s 6,600 fed­eral em­ploy­ees, their fam­i­lies and the peo­ple they serve.

It’s touched farm­ers, cus­to­di­ans, air­port op­er­a­tors, fed­eral agents, food qual­ity in­spec­tions. The list goes on.

And even if the shut­down ended to­mor­row, the ef­fects would linger, as the mas­sive bu­reau­cracy strains to catch up.

It’s a good chance mo­rale and the psy­cho­log­i­cal con­se­quences will re­ver­ber­ate as well, if Lisa Baranik’s ear­lier re­search is an in­di­ca­tion.

The Univer­sity at Al­bany School of Busi­ness as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of man­age­ment led a psy­cho­log­i­cal sur­vey of fur­loughed em­ploy­ees from the last fed­eral shut­down of

over two weeks in Oc­to­ber 2013.

“Be­ing fur­loughed mat­tered,” Baranik said.

On Satur­day, the shut­down slipped into the record books as the long­est ever. Mem­bers of Con­gress were out of town, no ne­go­ti­a­tions were sched­uled and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tweeted into the void, The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported.

Trump did not tip his hand about whether he will move ahead with an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion that could break the im­passe. Law­mak­ers are due back in Wash­ing­ton from their states and con­gres­sional dis­tricts in the new week.

About 800,000 work­ers missed pay­checks Fri­day, many re­ceiv­ing blank pay state­ments. Some posted pho­tos of their empty earn­ings state­ments on so­cial me­dia as a ral­ly­ing cry to end the shut­down, a jar­ring im­age that many in the White House feared could turn more vot­ers against the pres­i­dent as he holds out for bil­lions in new wall fund­ing, the AP re­ported.

Here are some of the im­pacts the Times Union re­viewed:

Food safety

The Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion is do­ing fewer in­spec­tions than be­fore the gov­ern­ment shut­down. But the agency says it is con­cen­trat­ing on “vi­tal ac­tiv­i­ties” that are “crit­i­cal to en­sur­ing pub­lic health and safety”

What’s not be­ing per­formed? Rou­tine in­spec­tions of food pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties.

“It’s not busi­ness as usual, and we are not do­ing all the things we would do un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances,” Dr. Scott Got­tlieb told NBC News. “There are im­por­tant things we are not do­ing.”

The U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture is con­tin­u­ing to in­spect meat, poul­try and some pro­cessed egg prod­ucts, ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

Sarah Sorscher, deputy di­rec­tor of reg­u­la­tory af­fairs, said the FDA’S halt to reg­u­lar food in­spec­tions “puts our food sup­ply at risk.

“Reg­u­lar in­spec­tions, which help food borne ill­ness be­fore peo­ple get sick, are vi­tal,” she said.

Small busi­ness

The Small Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion was among the “non­crit­i­cal” agen­cies mostly shut­tered dur­ing the shut­down.

Tell that to the small busi­ness per­son who’s count­ing on an SBA guar­an­tee for a loan that will pro­vide work­ing cap­i­tal and money to ex­pand.

“We work with about 1,000 small busi­nesses a year,” of­fer­ing coun­sel­ing at no cost, Bill Brigham di­rec­tor of the Small Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Cen­ter at Ualbany. “We see busi­nesses that needed money yes­ter­day.”

The SBA has pro­vided crit­i­cally needed sup­port to small com­pa­nies that to­gether em­ploy thou­sands of peo­ple in the Cap­i­tal Re­gion, and mil­lions more na­tion­wide.

But in re­cent days, the SCORE (Ser­vice Corps of Re­tired Ex­ec­u­tives) of­fice on Com­puter Drive South was dark, as was the ad­ja­cent SBA of­fice. A sign ad­vised that it would re­open “once fund­ing is avail­able.”

The SBA said on its web­site the it is still pro­cess­ing dis­as­ter loans to both busi­nesses and ho­mown­ers. But on Fri­day, The New York Times re­ported that Trump was con­sid­er­ing us­ing dis­as­ter re­cov­ery funds for the wall, the is­sue that trig­gered the shut­down in the first place.

Trans­porta­tion safety

The Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board is among the agen­cies that have put in­ves­ti­ga­tions on hold. The most prom­i­nent lo­cal case in­volves the crash of a limou­sine in Schoharie County last au­tumn that killed 20 peo­ple.

The NTSB said last week it would have to call an in­ves­ti­ga­tor back from fur­lough, now that it has been granted ac­cess to the wrecked limou­sine.

But the agency hasn’t been able to in­ves­ti­gate a num­ber of other ac­ci­dents that have oc­curred. The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported last week that at least 10 in­ci­dents that claimed 22 lives haven’t been in­ves­ti­gated.

The Fed­eral Rail­road Ad­min­is­tra­tion, mean­while, was ex­pected to fur­lough more than 40 per­cent of its work force, Rail­way Age re­ported, al­though its Of­fice of Rail­way Safety staff were ex­pected to stay on the job, with­out pay.

Oth­ers work­ing but not be­ing paid in­clude air traf­fic con­trollers at the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion, and Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion em­ploy­ees. Com­mer­cial pi­lots held a rally out­side the Capi­tol build­ing in Wash­ing­ton Thurs­day call­ing for an end to the shut­down.

Pass­ports, Precheck

The pass­port ap­pli­ca­tion of­fice at the Postal Ser­vice fa­cil­ity on Karner Road was busy Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, as sev­eral peo­ple waited to have pho­tos taken and their forms sent off for pro­cess­ing.

“We con­tinue to ac­cept pass­ports and are ad­vised that ap­pli­ca­tions are be­ing pro­cessed,” U.S. Postal Ser­vice spokes­woman Mau­reen Mar­ion told the Times Union. “No change to our op­er­a­tions as we fa­cil­i­tate pass­port ser­vices at this time.”

“Pass­ports are still be­ing pro­cessed,” said Jean Gagnon of Plaza Travel in Latham. She said ex­pe­dited pro­cess­ing was be­ing of­fered as well.

Ap­pli­ca­tions for the TSA Precheck pro­gram also con­tinue to be pro­cessed. Par­tic­i­pants who un­dergo a back­ground check can take ad­van­tage of the ex­pe­dited Precheck se­cu­rity lanes at the na­tion’s air­ports.

Trav­el­ers ap­ply­ing for Global En­try, a pro­gram that ex­pe­dites cus­toms and im­mi­gra­tion clear­ances when re-en­ter­ing the United States, but which re­quires a back­ground check and per­sonal in­ter­view, may not be as for­tu­nate.

Ap­pli­ca­tions for the Cus­toms and Bor­der Pa­trol pro­gram aren’t be­ing pro­cessed while the gov­ern­ment is shut down. “New ap­pli­ca­tions will be pro­cessed after the gov­ern­ment re­sumes op­er­a­tions,” ASKTSA tweeted.

Farm­ing

Ask Columbia County farmer Paul Jahns about the fed­eral shut­down and you’ll get an ear­ful about gov­ern­ment dys­func­tion and pos­tur­ing by politi­cians. But when it comes to how the shut­down af­fects his corn, soy­bean and wheat crops, Jahns said it’s had lit­tle im­pact so far. “For us, life goes on,” he said.

Like other area farm­ers, he keeps busy this time of year mak­ing soy and corn de­liv­er­ies, fix­ing equip­ment and pre­par­ing for the plant­ing sea­son.

“It’s prob­a­bly too soon to see the real im­pact,” state Farm Bureau spokesman Steve Am­mer­man said of how the shut­down is af­fect­ing many farm­ers.

The most vis­i­ble sign of a shut­down for farm­ers may be the clo­sure of the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture’s Farm Ser­vice Agency, which Am­mer­man said pro­vides the “boots on the ground,” through a se­ries of lo­cal of­fices in­clud­ing one in Schoharie County.

As a re­sult, the pro­cess­ing and dis­burse­ment of pay­ments to off­set the losses through Chi­nese tar­iffs is on hold. Those pay­ments are part of a $12 bil­lion na­tional pack­age to com­pen­sate farm­ers for the tar­iffs on ex­ported soy and other prod­ucts, which stemmed from trade dis­putes be­tween China and the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Jahns said he’d al­ready put his ap­pli­ca­tion in and re­ceived his pay­ment be­fore the shut­down.

The USDA ear­lier in the week ex­tended the dead­line to ap­ply for those pay­ments from Jan. 15 through the end of the shut­down, al­though the ap­pli­ca­tions won’t be pro­cessed un­til the stale­mate is over.

“They can’t get that money un­til ev­ery­thing is cleared,” Wash­ing­ton County farmer Jim Czub said of those who didn’t yet ap­ply. Like Jahns, he said he met the dead­line for the off­sets.

Due to the wet fall, some farm­ers hit de­lays in har­vest­ing their crops, said Am­mer­man, which means re­ports that go to the USDA for aid like loans will be de­layed. It’s not un­usual for farm­ers to get loans for items like seeds or new equip­ment and pay the money back after their har­vests.

One area where the shut­down could even­tu­ally have an im­pact is on crop fu­tures, which are an im­por­tant part of the busi­ness.

Jahns may sell some of soy or corn sup­plies next week or next year, de­pend­ing on what the price pre­dic­tions say. To help track that, he sub­scribes to a pri­vate ser­vice that gives on­go­ing read­outs from mar­ket ex­changes like the Chicago Board of Trade. Those ser­vices are un­in­ter­rupted.

But Czub noted that the gov­ern­ment also is­sues crop re­ports which can feed into fu­tures prices, which are now be­ing de­layed. “What will that do to the fu­tures mar­ket?” he asked.

Both Czub and Jahns ex­pressed frus­tra­tion, like many, about how the pres­i­dent and Con­gress can’t come to an agree­ment or com­pro­mise in or­der to re­open the gov­ern­ment.

“It’s a shame it has come down to this gi­ant wrestling match,” said Czub. “They can’t sit down and iron this out?” asked Jahns. “Maybe we should fire the politi­cians.”

Psy­chol­ogy

In ad­di­tion to the 2013 shut­down, in which the Repub­li­can Con­gress clashed with then­pres­i­dent Barack Obama over fund­ing for Oba­macare, there were two shut­downs dur­ing the Clin­ton Ad­min­is­tra­tion. Those were in 1995 and 1996 and in­volved fights over fund­ing gov­ern­ment ser­vices. While the 2013 clo­sure was over health care, this shut­down is over Trump’s in­sis­tence on fund­ing for a full wall on the U.s.-mex­ico bor­der, which is op­posed by Democrats.

Ualbany’s Baranik, who teaches hu­man re­source man­age­ment cour­ses, said the cur­rent shut­down is no­table since Trump has sug­gested it could last as long as a year. In 2013 there was a sense that both sides wanted to end it rapidly.

“It’s a lit­tle bit more ex­treme this time,” said Baranik.

Even after a fur­lough has ended, “em­ploy­ees may have lin­ger­ing thoughts and emo­tions re­lated to con­cerns about job sta­bil­ity and trust in their em­ployer, or may be over­whelmed at work try­ing to catch up from time lost dur­ing the fur­lough, both of which can spill over into the home do­main,” con­cluded the study, ti­tled “What Hap­pens When Em­ploy­ees Are Fur­loughed? A Re­source Loss Per­spec­tive.”

One of the big­gest fac­tors that de­ter­mines how harm­ful a fur­lough will be is the cul­ture of the work­place, she noted. “Em­ploy­ees with sup­port­ive su­per­vi­sors, au­ton­omy to do their jobs the way they pre­fer, flex­i­bil­ity, fair treat­ment, and good com­pen­sa­tion will be able to with­stand the stress of a fur­lough bet­ter than em­ploy­ees in less ideal work­place cul­tures,” Baranik said.

Baranik and fel­low re­searchers Janelle Che­ung, Robert Sin­clair and Charles Lance — from Ore­gon Health and Sci­ence Univer­sity, Clem­son Univer­sity in South Carolina, and Univer­sity of the Western Cape in Ge­or­gia, re­spec­tively — were ini­tially look­ing to sur­vey work­place stress.

But they re­al­ized the shut­down pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity to look at the im­pact of this rel­a­tively re­cent phe­nom­e­non. So they quickly re­con­fig­ured their ques­tions to in­clude im­pacts of the gov­ern­ment fur­lough.

Baranik and her fel­low re­searchers said in the sur­vey that fur­loughs, which also take place in the pri­vate sec­tor, haven’t been looked at much in terms of the ef­fect on em­ploy­ees.

Times Union pho­tos/ Pass­port, de­jec­tion by Getty Images

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s shut­down, now en­ter­ing its fourth week, has thrown farm aid into doubt, hob­bled the Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board, left Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion em­ploy­ees with­out pay, slowed food in­spec­tions and reg­u­la­tory ap­provals for new drugs and med­i­cal de­vices, and left work­ers con­fused and de­jected. Pass­port ap­pli­ca­tions are a bright spot. They’re still be­ing pro­cessed.

Pablo martinez monsivais / As­so­ci­ated Press

u.s. rep. Paul tonko, d-am­s­ter­dam, cen­ter, is among the mem­bers of Con­gress, union mem­bers and other fed­eral em­ploy­ees in front of the White House on thurs­day call­ing for an end to the par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down. About 800,000 fed­eral work­ers missed pay­checks on fri­day.

Times union ar­chive

Wash­ing­ton County-area farmer Jim Czub (seen in 2007) says de­lays in crop re­ports and fu­tures prices will mean uncer­tainty: “it’s a shame.”

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